When Dr. Rhadi Ferguson makes his predictions for mixed martial arts matches, he takes a few different variables into consideration.
But first and foremost, Dr. Ferguson, a world-renowned martial arts instructor who has trained Olympic athletes and champion mixed martial artists alike, looks past the fighters and into their corners.
“As you move up in the ranks of mixed martial arts, as you step up in competition, the quality of the coaching becomes more paramount,” noted Dr. Ferguson, 37. “I always refer to Sun Tzu’s The Art of War when it comes to making fight predictions.
“The one thing that you always have to look at, judge and measure are the abilities of the two coaches, the two camps.”
Good coaching can mean the difference between wins and losses, finishing a fight or being finished. On the other end of the spectrum, poor instruction can prove to have just as big of an influence on matches.
According to Dr. Ferguson, one doesn’t have to look any further back than Tim Boetsch and Hector Lombard’s match at UFC 149 on Saturday to see an example of the latter.
“‘Conan’ (Silveira, Lombard’s coach) got out-coached by Matt Hume and the people in his corner didn’t make the adjustment,” Dr. Ferguson explained. “Not only did they not make any adjustments, but they were telling Hector that he did fine when he clearly lost the first round.
“It was almost as if his corner was delusional. I’m not sure if the MMA game has passed Conan by—I’m not sure if he was aware of what was going on, I’m not sure if Hector’s corner knew what was going on—but there was no time during that fight where they asked Hector to modify his behaviour.”
In retrospect, Dr. Ferguson, who first heard of Lombard while the two were competing on the international judo circuit about 10 years ago, insisted that it wouldn’t have taken him long to modify Lombard’s behaviour on Saturday evening.
“If I was cornering Hector, I would say, ‘Hector, listen, son. You lost the first round, okay? The first round was close. This fight is very easy. You are a 2000 Olympian, you have some of the best takedowns in the world. Here’s what I need you to do: In the next 10 minutes, I need you to get me three takedowns, son. Can you do that?’ The answer would be, ‘Yes.’
“I need two takedowns in this round, Hector,’” Dr. Ferguson said. “‘Can you give me two takedowns?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘I don’t care if you punch, I don’t care if you knock him out—I don’t care about any of that. Hector, I need two takedowns. Do you understand?’”
From there, Dr. Ferguson noted that Lombard would promptly get his two takedowns before returning to the corner for the break between the second and third rounds.
“‘Hector, listen,” Dr. Ferguson continued. “I don’t know how the judges are scoring it, but it seems like you won the second round and the first round is up in the air. This is your UFC debut, son, and I need two takedowns in the final round.’”
Of course, as it played out, Dr. Ferguson watched the fight from home and Lombard woke up on Sunday morning with the third loss of his professional mixed martial arts career.
Going into Lombard’s bout with Boetsch, Dr. Ferguson predicted Lombard would finish on the losing end. But to be certain, Dr. Ferguson feels that Lombard, who he noted possesses a unique blend of speed and power, could have a bright future in the sport.
Yet one question, it seems, will persist as Dr. Ferguson continues to try to predict Lombard’s performances in the future.
“I know Conan prepares, but I am not sure about the depth and breadth of his coaching prowess,” said Dr. Ferguson, who trained under Silveira’s American Top Team banner for about five years in the 2000s. “The stuff that I do, I haven’t seen Conan doing any of that stuff and from my professional opinion, he doesn't. He couldn't possibly do the studying and analysis that I do and that the coaches that I've worked with over the years do. It’s just not possible. Because if he did, he would not have made such coaching and communication errors. To me, in my opinion, if you asked me to grade Conan’s coaching based on the coaching that I’ve done, he’s not going to make the grade.
“He’s super-knowledgeable, but coaching isn’t one-dimensional. It’s not just based on doing MMA or BJJ. You have to be a student and I challenge him to tell me the last 20 books he's read on coaching in the last 24 months. I sat down with Greg Jackson for five minutes and, in that time, we had both read seven of the same books in the past 12 months. In my opinion, the game has passed Conan by and the only one who doesn't know it is Conan. The great thing about having a superb athlete like Hector is that a great athlete covers up bad coaching when the competition disparity is great. Now that Hector is in the UFC, we'll see how good Conan is. I hope for Hector's sake he understands that coaches need coaching, too.
“And I'd be happy to have him as a client,” Dr. Ferguson added after pausing. “I think he's a wonderful guy. He just needs to learn a bit more, that's all.”
For more information on Dr. Rhadi Ferguson and MMA coaching, visit http://www.TheTruthAboutMMA.com
Ed Kapp is a Regina, Saskatchewan-based freelance journalist. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations were obtained first hand.